When we migrate from a country we leave behind people and places that we miss, but what about traditions? We spoke to two Hungarian sisters about what it is like spending Christmas in a new country.
When did you move to the UK and why?
Betti – I moved to the UK in August 2009, originally, I lived in Eastbourne and then moved to London. I came to the UK because I wanted a change in lifestyle and it seemed the obvious choice because of the language and because I wanted to experience London.
Dori – I came in 2013 after Betti had an accident and needed some help. I had always thought about coming to learn the language and to experience living in a new country and travel.
How is Christmas different in the UK?
Betti – In Hungary, Santa does not bring Christmas presents, baby Jesus does, children get presents from Santa on 6th December, which is St Nicholas Day. We don’t eat turkey either, we have fish soup on Christmas Eve and then roast duck with garlic potatoes on Christmas Day.
Dori – Hungary is a Catholic country, so we celebrate Christmas on the 24th and that is when we open our presents, there is no boxing day. We celebrate as a family on the 25th and 26th though. When we were kids, we would have a big family celebration with all our aunts, uncles and cousins, there would be around 30-40 people all together. Christmas Eve was also our Grandmother’s Name Day so it was a double celebration.
What do you miss most about Christmas in Hungary?
How do you try to bring Hungary to the UK at Christmas?
Betti – With the food!! We will still make traditional food like stuffed cabbage and roast duck and that reminds us of home, but we don’t make fish soup, we tried one year and that is really hard to make! Most importantly though we will be together, we are lucky as my sister and I live together so we will spend Christmas Day at home. Being together is the most important part of Christmas for us.
Dori – We don’t really do gifts anymore; the people are your gifts. The most important thing about Christmas in Hungary is the people you spend it with.
What are your favourite things about Christmas in the UK?
Betti – Winter Wonderland, when it is here, it is a lot of fun and having some time of work, usually in Hungary you only get 2 days off, but here you can take more time and relax. I also love the Christmas lights on Oxford and Regent Street.
Dori – London is always quieter at Christmas, everyone is visiting family or staying indoors and the streets are quiet and I like that it is more peaceful. I enjoy the Christmas markets too, even though we have these in Hungary.
How do you celebrate Christmas in the UK and are there any British traditions that you have adopted?
Betti – We watch Christmas movies all day and we love the Boxing Day sales; I don’t think this is a big thing in Hungary, and if it is, we never did it, but here it is a lot of fun and a tradition for us now.
Dori – We always get a real Christmas tree. One year, we had a difficult Christmas and our Dad went and brought a real tree and we decorated it all together as a family, so it is a special memory for us and something we have continued to do in the UK. We also love Christmas Crackers! We don’t have these in Hungary and they are so much fun. We cannot have Christmas dinner without the silly paper hats and the funny toys now!
We realise that Christmas is going to be very different for a lot of people this year and encourage you to reach out to friends and family. We would also like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, wherever you are and whatever you are doing.